Labor union denounces management over axed staff

The Congressional Research Employees Association (CREA) yesterday denounced the management of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) for its decision to fire 59 employees.

The union report quotes Daniel Mulhollan, director of the CRS, as saying the decision to sack the staff — technical support, audio visual and production support workers — reflected “sound business practices” and “the need to match work requirements with the appropriate resources.”

Trish Shuman, a CRS spokeswoman, said it “would not be appropriate to comment at this time.”

CREA accused Mulhollan of keeping management levels high while cutting non-managerial positions to stay within budget.

The document also accuses Mulhollan of withholding internal surveys that the union says he has mentioned to them and that allegedly state that the production staff should be fired because they lacked advanced technical skills.

“CRS senior management is acknowledging these problems six years late,” the labor-union document says. “Changing trends in production support duties and responsibilities were brought to the director’s attention in the late 1990’s; a study was conducted by his office and recommendations were made, but ignored.

“Waiting until 2006 to address what was identified in 2000 is not a sound business practice.”

The union contends that although Mulhollan described technical assistants as “inconstantly meeting the needs of CRS staff” and as being “not cost-effective, ” he had hired an individual as a technical assistant for his office as recently as this summer.

“CRS management intentionally placed technical assistants in and under the supervision of the analytical divisions and offices instead of the technical offices. … No lines of communication and training were established and the separation soon created effectiveness and efficiency problems,” the report says.

The CRS blamed the dismissal of the audiovisual employees on lack of interest in such presentations and on the low skill level of the employees. CREA argued that the problem was that the resource had not been properly marketed to Congress and the lack of training could be attributed more to management failure than that of the employees.

The CREA document also argues that the firings will not save the CRS the money that Mulhollan has claimed.

“In fact the [firings] will further strain CRS’s budget by indiscriminately eliminating productive human capitol [sic],” cause a range of problems by slowing the tech-support response and having to expand the agency’s “contracting capacity to compensate for the lost assets.”

The document suggests the budgetary funding problems had nothing to do with lower-level staff but more to do with the “ever expanding management overhead.” It said Mulhollan had not justified the cost of management positions. CREA says the CRS telephone book reveals that there is one management or supervisory position for every four lower-level positions.

“This ratio may become even higher since [the director’s] FY2006 staffing plan includes ‘a deputy associate director for Finance and Administration’” and several other additional management positions.

The union filed a grievance against the CRS and the Library of Congress on Oct. 21 for “contract violations” and “management failures” because of Mulhollan’s decision to get rid of the 59 staff.

According to a CREA survey, two-thirds of the employees are African-American and 70 percent are women.

On Oct. 6, Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.) wrote a letter to Mulhollan requesting that he reconsider the Sept. 22 decision to downsize the employees and that the CRS meet with CREA “to create a transparent and fair plan moving forward.”